Science Reporting

Genetic mutation has evolved in humans to cope with sugar consumption

Human evolution is of course still ongoing and a discovery has been made about a limited genetic variant that is affecting humans in relation to today’s diet. Research, published in eLife, shows how human bodies are starting to change in relation to the management of blood sugar levels. This evolutionary process has been determined by the change in diets in the last hundreds of years due to the increase in the consumption of sugary foods and carbohydrates in general.

Initially, researchers were only studying the CLTCL1 gene, a gene that is involved in the production of the protein CHC22 which plays a key role in the regulation of a glucose transporter in human fat and muscle cells. This transporter is released by hormonal insulin, which in turn reacts to higher blood glucose levels. Researchers analyzed the genomes of 2,504 people in the Global Genomes Project and those of 61 other species and realized that the gene that produces CHC22 has changed during the recent human evolutionary history.

Nearly half of the people surveyed possessed a variant of CHC22 produced by a mutated gene that became more common in recent human history as communities developed more complex ways of cooking food and agriculture. Researchers also analyzed the genomes of ancient populations and found that this variant was more present in more agricultural populations than in those that were more concerned with hunting or the random collection of food to survive. All these things suggest that the increase in carbohydrate consumption was the selective force that guided this genetic adaptation.

Does this mean that in the future, a fairly distant future in any case, humans may have defeated diabetes genetically and without external intervention? According to the researchers, further research is needed to understand how this newly discovered genetic variant can affect our physiology in the future, but what is certain is that the changes that occurred a few thousand years ago regarding our eating habits have strongly shaped, and are still doing, our evolution.